Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said he was “surprised” by India’s reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to help resolve the deadly dispute between their countries.
India’s External Affairs Ministry denied Trump’s claim that PM Narendra Modi asked him to serve as a “mediator or arbitrator.” Trump’s Chief Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow defended the president’s remarks, saying he “does not make up things.”
Muslim-majority Kashmir is a Himalayas region claimed by Pakistan, China, and India.
New Delhi stressed that Kashmir is a bilateral issue that no third party can resolve. However, international pressure, including from the Trump administration, helped avert a war between Pakistan and India in Kashmir this year.
On Tuesday, the Pakistani PM wrote on Twitter:
Surprised by [the] reaction of India to Pres Trump’s offer of mediation to bring Pak & India to dialogue table [for] resolving [the] Kashmir conflict which has held subcontinent hostage for 70 yrs. Generations of Kashmiris have suffered & are suffering daily and need conflict resolution.
3. Surprised by reaction of India to Pres Trump's offer of mediation to bring Pak & India to dialogue table for resolving Kashmir conflict which has held subcontinent hostage for 70 yrs. Generations of Kashmiris have suffered & are suffering daily and need conflict resolution.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) July 23, 2019
Trump indicated Modi asked him to be a “mediator or arbitrator” over Kashmir during the G20 summit in Japan in late June. His comments came during a joint press conference with PM Khan at the White House Monday.
The president made the allegation about Modi after Khan made a similar request during the conference.
If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. … It’s impossible to believe two incredible countries that are very, very smart, with very smart leadership, can’t solve a problem like that. But if you want me to mediate or arbitrate, I would be willing to do that.
Despite the Modi administration’s assertion that the premier did not make any request for a Kashmir mediator, Trump’s claim triggered a political row in India. The opposition is accusing Modi of betraying the interests of the country by asking for assistance on a bilateral issue.
The opposition demands that the Indian government reveal what Modi told Trump at the G20 summit.
Official records of the conversation between Trump and Modi reportedly show no evidence of the Indian PM’s Kashmir request as detailed by the U.S. president.
In a statement issued in the wake of Trump’s comments, the U.S. Department of State appears to agree with India’s position that Kashmir is a bilateral issue that must be resolved by New Delhi and Islamabad without foreign interference.
“While Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss, the Trump administration welcomes Pakistan and India sitting down, and the United States stands ready to assist,” a unnamed spokesperson for State said.
Kashmir has been marred violence for decades. Pakistan and India have fought two wars and a minor conflict over the region since 1947.
India accuses Pakistan of backing terrorists and harboring separatists in Kashmir. Pakistan says India violently oppresses pro-Pakistan separatists who are fighting for independence or in favor of a merger with Pakistan.
Despite a 2003 ceasefire, Pakistan and India have repeatedly clashed along their border in Kashmir, and those incidents continue to this day.
China has mostly stayed in the shadows of the India-Pakistan dispute, “exploiting” their rivalry to keep New Delhi in check, according to the U.S. government.
Pakistan has ceded control of some of its Kashmir territories to China while India disputes Beijing’s claims to land within its side of the border.